West Coast ports on strike

Container ships sit idle at the Port of Oakland because of a dockworker strike. Photo by Getty Images

West Coast ports stoppage ripples inland with layoffs

A northern California company sent 46 people home from work on Feb. 5 because it had no work for its employees.

The company, a processor of raw agricultural products that are consumed domestically and shipped globally, cannot ship international exports because West Coast ports are shut down.

A central California company likewise had to make the difficult decision to halt shipments of California-grown commodities out of Oakland, Long Beach and Los Angeles ports because dock workers refuse to work.

Reports say the work stoppage is a result of negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) over wages and benefits.

So, while discussions apparently reach impasse that a PMA press release says will cost the association over $175,000 per employee per year if implemented, non-union workers trying to earn enough money to make car payments, rent and buy groceries for their families are effectively out of work.

The stoppage is having a tremendous impact on fresh fruit being shipped from the Pacific Northwest according to associations representing fruit growers. Fresh citrus from California, which is being picked right now, is impacted too. Some of California’s citrus is being trucked to ports along the Gulf Coast for export as those ports and ones along the East Coast are said not to be involved in the work stoppage.

That can’t be a cheap endeavor for shippers who must bear the added cost of trucking goods to the Gulf Coast so they can be shipped through the Panama Canal, which I’m told is being bottlenecked because of the added traffic.

Billions of dollars in combined food exports are impacted.

What goes out cannot come in. The port stoppage has impacted U.S. imports of all sorts of goods coming across the Pacific.

Union dock workers earn an average of $147,000 per year and would see their wages climb about 3 percent under a proposal, along with fully-paid health care costs of about $35,000 per year per union member. Pension costs would also rise under a proposal, according to the PMA.

That’s a pretty sweet gig if you can get it – more than $150k per year with fully-subsidized health care and a bump in their pension.

Who do these people think they are: congressmen and senators?

All kidding aside the ones who truly suffer are not those working in in port cities up and down the West Coast; the biggest impacts are to those employees at inland packing sheds who are prevented from earning an honest living because labor union dock workers think their current six-figure salaries and subsidized benefits are insufficient.

Let’s not forget growers who produced their crops on the notion that overseas markets were available and they’d be paid sufficiently to sustain their own businesses. Their lenders aren’t going to give them a pass while union workers walk off the job.

Maybe there’s an attorney out there who can explain the liability unions assume by effectively blocking international commerce and free trade. Any Senators or Congressmen dare to take up this issue?

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